Sean McCormack v Ardley United, EPR (Shooting Stars Photography)

McCormack wins it for Ascot on landmark appearance

Sean McCormack celebrated his 100th game for Ascot United by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win at Badshot Lea on Bank Holiday Monday. The popular winger – whose match-winning penalty sent the Yellas to Wembley last season – came up with the goods from an improbable angle midway through the second half to make it six points from six for his side over the holiday weekend.

Chances for both sides in even first half

The first half was a slow burner that took a while to ignite, although Ascot were somewhat incensed after just six minutes when the referee awarded only a free kick outside the area for a pull on Usman Lalustani inside the area.

Badshot Lea then enjoyed a decent spell and George Frise found space with a free header at the far post from Reece Robins’s corner, teeing-up Kane Fitzgerald who could only blaze his nod-down over. Hugo Sobte then did well to get down to save Baback Behgani’s raking effort before Josh Edwards superbly picked up the pieces for Ascot, although it was his side who finished the half more strongly.

Home ‘keeper Harry Cawdron brilliantly tipped Lalustani’s free kick over seven minutes before the break after an earlier foul on Sam Balogun, before carnage in the hosts’ box saw neither Brendan Matthew nor George Lock unable to force the ball home. In between those efforts Behgani flashed wide for The Baggies, exposing the space on the left wing as Lock lay injured, but Harry Grant’s glancing effort over the bar for Ascot in the 45th minute was the last meaningful action of an entertaining albeit goalless half.

Hosts eventually pay price for slack defending

Badshot Lea’s mean defence had underpinned their promotion from Step five last season, conceding just 29 league goals in 38 matches, but this was a poor rearguard showing from a side that were dispossessed on multiple occasions when trying to play out from the back.

That said, the Yellas will also take much credit for their high-press, and although Lea’s Billy Oram had seen a deflected effort sail wide for the hosts in the first chance of the half, it was an otherwise measured performance from Jamie Tompkins’ side.

When the crucial goal finally came it was a peach. Lalustani judged a long ball over the top and down the left channel to perfection – home defender Harvey Griffiths did not – but if Lalustani’s first touch to flick the ball forward with his hip was delicious then his low, inviting cross across the six-yard box was simply scrumptious. McCormack still had work to do from a tight angle, but he iced his own cake with a rasping first-time thunderbolt into the net from a tight angle that simply oozed everything this team will need to reproduce to unlock step-four defences.

Squad strength shines through

Tompkins then shuffled his pack with Dan Brown a stand-out introduction, breaking down opposition play alongside key spoiler Balogun, but the granite rock lay at the feet of Edwards, who simply refused to let The Baggies have a sniff in-and-around Sobte.

Indeed, it might have got better for Ascot only for Matthew to drag an effort wide after Grant and Oliver Lahtinen-Kalsi had linked up to good effect with nine minutes remaining – the home side once again tripped up when trying to play out from the back – whereas two long-range efforts from substitute Steven Sylla that sailed harmlessly off target were as close as it got at the other end.

Balogun then joined Jay Welch in the book for an, erm, ‘expertly executed intervention’ when it looked like the Ascot midfield had been breached with four minutes of regulation time remaining. And, even though there would be six further added in the overage, it was fairly plain-sailing for The Yellas who would ultimately reflect on a fruitful three days at the office that yielded two clean sheets, five goals and another rung on this level’s learning ladder.

What’s next for Ascot?

The Yellas are back in Emirates FA Cup action next weekend when South Central Division rivals Westfield visit The Racecourse. Ascot have never been past the first qualifying round stage of the competition, but this is surely their best-ever opportunity to go one better than they have done previously. And, if they play with all the positives from this weekend then they will be in the box seat.

Ascot United: Sobte, Lock, Tucker, Edwards, McCormack (Brown 68’), H. Grant, Matthew, Lalustani (McCoy 68’), Lahtinen-Kalsi, Welch (Allsopp 78’), Balogun. Subs unused: Laflin, A. Grant

Entertainment: 4

Reporter’s Star Man: Josh Edwards (Ascot United)

Away fans (estimate): 45

Yellow cards: Welch 33’, Balogun 86’




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